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July 31 Practice Report: Stop The Presses

Posted Jul 31, 2014

A common narrative is that wide receiver Josh Huff, the team's third-round pick, would have an easier transition since he played for head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon.

If the Oregon offense under Kelly was the same as the Eagles offense, that would have merit. However, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's West Coast influence combined with the myriad of defensive schemes have steepened the learning curve for Huff.

"He'll be the first one to tell you there are a lot of things that have changed and been added from what he did at Oregon, which he just really had to do," Shurmur said. "We see a lot more defense. We see a lot more man coverage in the NFL than they did in college. So we've got a lot of the traditional things in the passing game that you would run at this level."

The Eagles' wide receivers spent time during individual periods on Thursday getting off the line of scrimmage against bump-and-run coverage. Veteran Jeremy Maclin has taught the young receivers to embrace the opportunities in practice because it'll be harder than in a game.

"In practice, there's a lot of holding, there's guys lined up in the neutral zone, a lot of other stuff that goes into it," said Maclin, although there were NFL officials present at Thursday's training session. "I just tell these guys, go out there, be aggressive, work on your releases and trust me, the game will be a lot easier."

Jordan Matthews will have to work his 6-foot-3, 212-pound frame through traffic as he is working exclusively in the slot, while Huff is moved inside and outside.

"It’s about knowing yourself. If you’re a guy like Maclin, who’s probably one of the fastest receivers in the league, you can work your speed releases, you can get on top quick. If you’re a guy like (Riley Cooper), very big receivers, physical, you just have to know who you are," Matthews said. "You have to be able to use those strengths to the best effort. You can work on different things and try to have your change-ups, but at the end, you have to know who you are. If you’re a big guy, you have to play big. If you’re a small guy, you have to use your feet and be able to be deceptive to get open. That’s the main thing, just knowing who you are.

Matthews is studying all of the receivers to add as much to his arsenal as possible.

"I think I have a little bit of both, but at the same time I feel like God’s blessed me with a little bit of height. The first thing I’m always trying to work on is coming out here and making sure that I play big, that I’m always able to lean on guys and then use my size," he added. "I think I’ve been blessed with some speed too, so I’m trying to look at how Maclin uses some of his releases, I’m trying to steal some things from him. I even watch some of the shorter guys, working with Huff has helped me a lot too. I mean, that guy is quick, real quick off the line, so I’m trying to steal some releases from him too."

Matthews also discussed one of his unique practice habits. Whenever the second-round pick catches a pass, he runs upfield full speed, usually to the end zone, despite whether or not the play has been deemed over. Shurmur joked Thursday that “if we didn’t have fences around here, he’d run into the street.”

“At first, everybody’s trying to feel you out. Nobody played in college with me here except for Carey (Spear), so when I catch the ball and run it all the way, Carey is the only guy who’s like, ‘OK, that’s how Jordan is.’ The other guys, they think that, OK, he’s a rookie, he’s trying to impress us, but in time they see that’s who I am,” Matthews explained. “That’s just my standard. Maybe people will look at it and say, ‘Oh, he’s working extremely hard,’ but I think everybody here works hard, people just have different ways of showing it. If I don’t catch the ball and run out, then I can’t rest easy at night. I can’t lay my head on my pillow and know that I gave my best. That’s just who I am, that’s thee standard I have for myself and that’s going to be the way that I continue to practice.”

Johnson Thankful For Second Chance

After he was arrested in Arizona on the weekend before Training Camp, safety Keelan Johnson knew the Eagles could easily have released him and parted ways. Johnson returned to Philadelphia and met with head coach Chip Kelly, who gave him the best news possible. The Eagles weren't going to cut him and excused him from the start of camp to take care of his situation.

"I was a little nervous. Once you face something like that, this is a game where they can get rid of you and find somebody else to bring into the position," Johnson said after his first training session back on Thursday.

Johnson declined to discuss details of his arrest since it is still part of an ongoing investigation. He was reunited with his teammates on Wednesday and felt welcomed back by the team. Now, the hard work begins. Johnson played in his first two NFL games last season after being promoted from the practice squad on December 17. In team drill periods on Thursday, Johnson mixed in with the third-team defense.

"I think it's the same situation I came back to this year. I'm on the bottom of the list now," Johnson said. "I think I need to come back and not force anything, let the game come to me and stand out more than the guys who are coming here trying to take the spot I'm looking for."

A Little Bit Of This And That

  • During individual drills, the linebackers and defensive linemen worked on recovering fumbles at two different stations. At one station, the ball would be placed on the ground and the player would have to lie on the ground and cradle it. At the other station, the ball would be rolled on the ground and the Eagles would have to do their best shortstop imitation. Later on, the first forced fumble of camp was created by linebacker Bryan Braman, who stripped rookie running back David Fluellen.
  • A day after securing four interceptions, the defensive backs spent a period continuing to work on securing interceptions while another defensive back would try to knock the ball away.
  • Even when wide receiver Jordan Matthews struggles, he looks good doing it. During an individual drill period, Matthews couldn't cleanly haul in a pass while running a shallow cross. However, Matthews didn't drop it. He hit it up in the air a few times before finally securing the ball and heading upfield towards the end zone.
  • Kris Kross would have been proud of this rep from a 7-on-7 period. Tight end Brent Celek lined up in the slot and Josh Huff was flexed wide of Celek to the right of the formation. After the snap, the two crossed in the shape of an X and Celek, who was covered by linebacker Connor Barwin, got free down the right sideline and hauled in the pass from quarterback Nick Foles.
  • Cornerback Cary Williams brought plenty of aggressiveness and physicality to the training session Thursday. During a 7-on-7 period, wide receiver Kadron Boone could have simply been nudged out of bounds after making a reception, but instead Williams decided to push him into the ground.
  • In the first special teams period, Alex Henery and Carey Spear went toe-to-toe as the two kickers combined to go 10-for-10 in field goal attempts ranging from 37 yards out to 52 yards.
  • The Eagles offense worked on the back-shoulder throw during another 7-on-7 period a Nick Foles perfectly timed the pass to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who held on to the ball despite good coverage from cornerback Bradley Fletcher. Later in the period, wide receiver Josh Huff thought quarterback Matt Barkley was going for the back-shoulder throw, but Barkley went deep down the right sideline instead. Huff immediately took blame for the miscommunication.
  • One day after Earl Wolff got to run alongside Malcolm Jenkins with the first-team defense, it was Chris Maragos' turn. Wolff was suited up, but did not practice, but later said that he would be “100 percent ready to go” for tomorrow’s session. Ed Reynolds and Daytawion Lowe comprised the second-team unit, while Nate Allen worked with Davon Morgan and Keelan Johnson in the third-team group.
  • Cornerback Brandon Boykin came up with an interception on a G.J. Kinne pass.

  • In the team drill periods, wide receiver Riley Cooper remained sidelined with a foot injury so Jeff Maehl took the first-team reps in his place. Brad Smith, star of this week's episode of The Journey, presented by AAA, is still holding off Jordan Matthews at the slot receiver position. Maehl finished off a series with a nice tip-toe grab along the left sideline from Nick Foles.
  • Cornerback Nolan Carroll II continues to showcase the improved depth at the position with a nice pass breakup of a pass intended for Jeremy Maclin during a 7-on-7 period. Rookie Jaylen Watkins, meanwhile, had perhaps his best day of practice, batting down a few passes during 7-on-7s and sticking tightly to receivers during one-on-one drills. 
  • At what point can we put any questions about wide receiver Jeremy Maclin's knee to rest? During a one-on-one, wide receiver-defensive back period, Maclin made an ankle-breaking double move to get open against safety Chris Maragos.
  • Wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah used his 6-foot-7 frame to win a jump ball against cornerback Brandon Boykin during the one-on-one period. The play helped highlight how far Momah has progressed since he was in Training Camp last year, but he knows with his body type he should win those battles. "It's kind of expected," Momah said. "I have to use my size. I learned from last year. This year, I'm going to take advantage of what I've got and doing stuff like that is what I'm supposed to do. Yeah, it feels good to do it, but it's expected. I have to continue to do that."
  • More highlights from the one-on-ones with wide receivers and defensive backs: Brad Smith taught Davon Morgan a lesson in footwork over the middle of the field in finding himself open. He later did the same to Ed Reynolds; Roc Carmichael was called for pass interference down the field on rookie Quron Pratt; Cary Williams, continuing his strong day, blanketed Jeff Maehl. 
  • The offensive and defensive linemen also took their turns in head-to-head competition, with the veterans holding on for victory more often than not. Brandon Graham used the Speedo swim move of the day to fly past rookie Kevin Graf, while Damion Square pushed rookie Don Hawkins off the line of scrimmage and into the would-be pocket twice in a row. Taylor Hart, who actually took a few reps at nose tackle during practice, did a nice job in beating fellow rookie Karim Barton initially, though the latter bounced back for a victory during the rematch.

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